Classic Head Half Cent (1809 – 1836)

#1 Classic Head Half Cent Buyer Las Vegas & Henderson

History of Classic Head Half Cents

The Mint Act of April 2, 1792, established the half-cent as the smallest denomination of United States coinage. The United States Mint first produced half cents in July 1793. There were different designs made throughout the history of half cents and one of them is the Classic Head half cent.

The Classic Head Half Cent was issued for a longer duration than the previous designs. It was minted in 1809 to 1836. Though there are years that no half cents was struck for circulation, and these years are from 1812 to 1824 and again in 1827 and 1830.

The Classic Head half-cent was designed by John Reich and was originally misnamed “Turban Head” by coin dealer Édouard Frossard. It was rumored that Lady Liberty was actually portrayed by Dolley Madison which gave birth to the name “Classic Head.” Classic Head was first used in Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine in 1868.

In its day, Reich’s Liberty was cruelly characterized as the “artist’s fat mistress” because of the reserved look compared to the previous Draped Bust half cent. Reich’s new design depicted a more reserved Liberty facing left, her curled hair tied with a band with an inscription of the word LIBERTY that cascades over her ear to the base of her bust. Seven stars are to the left of the bust and six to the right, with the date below. The reverse shows a wreath encircling the denomination HALF CENT, with the inscription UNITED STATES OF AMERICA surrounding the wreath at the rim.

John Reich worked together with the aging Robert Scot, who designed many of the earliest coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint. John Reich stayed at the Mint for ten years as an engraver. He resigned due to the fact that his designs have been modified by Robert Scot and he wasn’t given credit for it, and he was never given a raise up until his resignation.

In 1809, the half cent denomination was already losing its value as a medium of exchange under even the mild inflation of early 19th century America. Furthermore, manufacturing copper flans had always been a problem, and nearly all the planchets used for copper coinage came from the Boulton factory in England. By the fall of 1811, the Mint had run out of planchets, and the embargo during the War of 1812 effectively stopped all shipments of the needed copper from England, halting production of the half cent for years.

In 1825, probably due to the growing shortage of small change, half cents were ordered by Jonathan Elliott & Co. of Baltimore. Reich’s Classic Head design was modified by the new Chief Engraver, William Kneass, for what was predicted to be heavy demand for this denomination. Unfortunately, demand never met expectations, and by 1829 hundreds of thousands of half cents again sat in the Mint’s vaults. Coinage ceased until 1831, when another large order was received from the merchant Washington Cilley. Kneass again used Reich’s design but made new device punches and further revisions, including modifying the date and lettering and adding a raised rim on each side

What is a Classic Head Half Cent

The Classic Head was the next in line of design and was issued on 1809 to 1836. This was designed/engraved by John Reich and Robert Scot. The term “Classic Head” for this design was first used in Mason’s Coin and Stamp Collector’s Magazine in 1868, succeeding the misnomer “Turban Head” assigned earlier by coin dealer Édouard Frossard.

The design on the obverse features a left-facing Lady Liberty with boasting headgear that is known as a fillet, with the word LIBERTY inscribed on it. It is rumored to be designed after the crown given to the best male athletes of Ancient Greece. Thirteen stars surround the image, with seven to the left and six to the right of the portrait. The date is inscribed below the image. The obverse design was modified by William Kneass starting with the 1831 issue. He was a new Mint engraver who had joined the Mint in early 1824 following the death of Robert Scot.

The reverse features a dentilled rim, within inscribed these words UNITED STATES OF AMERICA that encircles the laurel branch with berries that forms an inner wreath and the branches are tied together. At the center is the denomination of HALF CENT, the words on separate lines with a centered dot between, and a short horizontal line is under CENT. All half cents of the type were minted at Philadelphia and show no mintmark.

This series also features a few varieties of colors. The Classic Head half cent coins are described as Brown (BN), Red-Brown (RB), or Red (RD), with RB examples less common than BN, and RD the most scarce.

Composition and Specifications of Classic Head Half Cents

Though there have been several restrikes that occurred outside the mint using discarded dies, all coins are struck with a plain edge, made from pure copper with a weight of 84 grains (5.44 grams). They have a diameter of 23.5 mm, with some very minor differences possible. When the Mint switched to more modern machinery in 1831, the quality improved even more. The 1831 and later issues of the series will be extremely close or at these standards.

Designer: John Reich, modified by Robert Scot and William Kneass
Circulation Mintage: high 1,154,572 (1809), low 51,000 (1832, estimated)
Proof Mintage: none reported or known, 1809-1829; 25 (1831-1836, estimated)
Denomination: One half cent (005/100)
Diameter: 23.5 mm, plain edge
Metal Content: 100% copper
Weight: 5.44 grams
Varieties: Several known including 1809 Small o Inside O and 9 Over Inverted 9; 1811 Wide Date, Close Date, and Reverse of 1802 (restrike); 1828 13 Stars and 12 Stars; 1831 Large Berries Reverse of 1836 and Small Berries Reverse of 1840-1857 (restrike, proof); 1836 Reverse of 1840-1857 (restrike, proof); and other minor die variations.

How We Grade Classic Head Half Cents

These are the different grades of Classic Head Half Cents:

  • Uncirculated: These are the coins that never made it out onto the open market. The normally have a “new-minted coin” look or same as how it looked like when it was first minted way back in 1809.
  • Extremely Fine: These coins look the same as uncirculated but it has few minor scratches and chips. These imperfections are noticeable but nothing so large that it will detract from the appearance of the coin.
  • Fine: These coins were likely been circulated for over a long period of time. They have scratches and chips but the letters and numbers on the surface image can still be seen by the naked eye.
  • Good: These are the coins that have been heavily circulated and damaged. The letters and numbers worn away due to deep scratching and smoothing.

We prefer coins that have been graded and certified as authentic by Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS) or Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), though we will still give a fair deal for these coins.

Price Quote For Classic Head Half Cents

We have different estimated prices for the 1809-1827 Classic Head half cent coins, and 1828-1836 Classic Head half cent coins.

For the 1809 to 1827 Classic Head half cents, the price range for Good graded coins can reach up to $60; for the Fine graded coins, it can reach up to $120; while for the Extremely Fine graded coins, it can reach up to $200; and for the Uncirculated graded coins, it can reach up to $1,000.

For the 1828 to 1836 Classic Head half cents, the price range for Good graded coins can reach up to $50; for the Fine graded coins, the prices can reach up to $90; while the prices for Extremely Fine graded coins can range up to $120; and the Uncirculated graded coins reaches up to $400.

Coins dated 1811 are extra rare, and catalog at about $2000 in Fine-graded condition.

Uncirculated coins price higher than the other grades because of it has never been used or circulated and it looks brand new with no imperfections.

We buy Classic Head half cents of 1809 to 1836. We will buy your coins no matter the grade and the condition. So, if you have Classic Head half cent coins, send us a message and let’s negotiate a good deal for your coins.

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